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Moked , a leading portal for Italian Jews, praises recent statements by Benedict XVI and Paris’ chief rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, in defense of the traditional understanding of marriage. Countering the charge from some quarters that Italian Judaism has been relatively silent, the paper points to a 2007 column by Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome. The Rabbi stresses the need for both Jews and gentiles to work for a sound public definition of marriage:

One political position customary among Jews, and often shared also among the more observant, is that of not interfering in the choices of freedom that the state makes for its citizens, reserving only to the individual conscience the right and duty of making rigorous personals choices on arguments in which the law of the state makes room for autonomy and freedom.


But this rule cannot always be applied. According to the Torah, Jews must observe 613 rules, but this does not mean that non-Jews must not have any rules, because in reality they too have them, arranged under seven fundamental headings, called the [precepts of Noah or] Noahtic precepts, natural law. And it is our duty as Jews to induce non-Jews to respect their rules.


It is difficult to say how this can be realized. What is certain is that we cannot remain indifferent to the exceeding of certain limits, agreeing for example that the law of the state should admit homicide, theft, incest.


The argument that is being debated now falls, in terms of some of its aspects (not cohabitation in general so much as male homosexual couples specifically), within limits that are held to be inviolable.


The problem does not even seem very new, as demonstrated by a passage of the Babylonian Talmud (Chulin 92b) in which it is said that among the few limits that the nations of the world have not exceeded is that they have not yet consented to “writing the Ketubbà for males,” even if they are certainly not attentive to respecting the ban on homosexual practices. The Ketubbà is the marriage contract in which the groom pledges himself to the bride. “Writing the Ketubbà for males” means sanctioning homosexual union with a regime of legal and economic guarantees.


In short, even if this attitude could be considered hardly “politically correct” according to the current sensibility, we must not ignore the fact that according to our tradition the society that is about to make these decisions is greatly exceeding illicit limits and it is our duty to oppose these choices, not to remain indifferent.


Obviously, our only tools are those of democracy: speech, the vote. But we cannot do without using them. The fundamental objection is that in this way we are going against free rights to individual choices. But on “boundary” issues like these, which are not at all shared by large majorities, there is also the right and the duty to dissent. There never exist unlimited rights, and all are called to decide the definition of the limit.

Articles by Matthew Schmitz

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